I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

daring cooks, march

Say cheese! Yup, the Daring Kitchen challenge addressed another thing on my "You Know, This Would Be Really Cool To Try" list. I made cheese. I also made bread this week, and the two had me feeling so back-to-basics, I'm surprised I didn't shear the dog to make yarn and weave fabric or something.

But anyway.
Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!
I decided to try labneh first. This is a yogurt cheese from Lebanese cuisine. And it's so simple to make, it's ridiculous. You - wait for it - stir salt into yogurt and strain it.

I used a 500g tub of plain Greek yogurt, added 1/2 tsp of salt. 

Stirred it together and let it sit in a double layer of cheesecloth in a collander. 
Yogurt after straining for a few hours.
I am so high-tech.

I added a small plate on top with a precariously-balanced jar of peanut butter near the end of the draining time to get more of the whey out.

The whey made for yummy pancakes. Many jokes about curds and whey and spiders were floating around. I have yet to discover exactly what a tuffet is. (scratch that, it's a little sort of seat. Thanks, google!)

The labneh was delicious! The taste reminded me of goat cheese, a nice tang to it that was good with a little olive oil on top, or crumbled on top of salads. It'd be great on crusty bread with olives.

(did I mention I made cheese?)
Second take, now feeling braver: paneer, or ricotta. Now, technically it was not ricotta, which is made from reheating the whey left from other cheeses (the "ri" means "re", in fact) and since it's made from cheese byproducts is not a true cheese. Since I started this with milk and cream, it was more of a paneer, an Indian cheese. But I called it ricotta and defy the Cheese Police to make me do otherwise.

Started with these ingredients. Except the mango, which seems to have photobombed the cheese setup. Milk, cream, salt, and vinegar. I love short ingredient lists!

Heated gently to 185F, measured on the handy candy thermometer.

Added the vinegar. Instant curds! Heated it a little more, then set it aside for 15 minutes. It didn't look much different after that, but it seemed to have had time to think about things. Or something.

Used a little sieve to move the curds into the cheesecloth-lined collander. Snuck a bit and it already tasted pretty good.

Then it sat and drained for a couple hours before I gave it a gentle final squeeze and had my cheese.

So good! A bit crumbly but a creamy flavour much better than the store-bought type. And cheaper, too. This one would also be a great base to add herbs in the cheese itself, I think - I could see doing this in summer with fresh basil or scallions.

It's hard to see it but it's there, a nice creamy base for the tomatoes.

This was a much milder flavour than the labneh, and we ended up using it on flatbread for a sort of tomato and basil tart with supper. Delicious!

Doing this challenge did make me feel more ready (braver?) to try out some other types of cheese - mozzarella, marscapone... so many good ones to try. Thanks for a great one, Sawsan!